PHILADELPHIA -- With the New York Islanders missing defenseman Milan Jurcina and Travis Hamonic, Aaron Ness will make his NHL debut tonight here against the Flyers.
The 21-year-old blueliner, in his first professional season, has 17 points and a plus-6 rating in 48 games with AHL Bridgeport. A 2008 second-round pick (No. 40), Ness' strength is his offensive ability.
"I'm going to try to play on the offensive side as much as possible," he said following this morning's practice. "But for me, the first game tonight, I have to just be solid out there defensively, as well."
Coach Jack Capuano said Ness will start the game paired with veteran Mark Eaton.
"He must be really excited," said Isles captain and fellow defenseman Mark Streit. "He's a good player. He played a couple preseason games and he did really well. He's a great skater. That makes it way easier for him. He gets to pucks quick and I'm sure he's going to have a great game … just keep it simple. Move the puck, skate, play good defensively and I'm sure he'll be all right."
Streit said the most important thing for Ness is to enjoy the moment.
"It's important that you enjoy it a lot," he said. "You shouldn't be overly nervous. Enjoy it. You don't get too many first games in the NHL."
Ness said he knows the key for him will be playing to his strengths and not trying to do too much.
"The biggest thing (teammates) have been telling me is play my game," he said. "Obviously why I got the call here is they like what I'm doing, and I just have to continue what I'm doing in the American league."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK